By Halle Preston, Year 10

Overall, the Duke of Edinburgh award has been a truly memorable experience. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been difficult at times, but the more time goes on, the less doubt in my mind that this opportunity will be one that I remember for the rest of my life. Every aching limb and sunburnt shoulder pales into insignificance when I look back at everything I’ve achieved. I’ve become more independent, become acquainted with new friends, been pushed to my physical limits, integrated well into new environments and worked efficiently as part of a team. But most of all, I’ve proved my own capabilities, and done things I never dreamt of doing. All in all, it’s been a life changing six months for me!

For my physical section, after much deliberation, I chose cycling. I’ve always loved cycling, with it being one of the only sports I’m capable of doing well, but in the past I’ve barely made any effort to do it. I went out on Sunday mornings, slightly groggy and unprepared, and return mud-splattered, sweat-soaked and much more fulfilled. Not only did I get my weekly dose of the open air and relish that familiar freedom I’d missed while cycling, but I got to improve my time each week, cutting about twenty minutes off my original time in total! Not only was it an achievement, but it was a pleasure to get back out there after so long. It reminded me of how much I always enjoyed those weekend bike rides with my dad.

Writing is a passion of mine, so naturally, after a little indecisiveness I chose creative writing for my skills section. Mrs Dolman was kind enough to proofread and track my progress, and over the course of three months I was able to explore different narratives, characters and plotlines. My extermination ended, however, when I started to develop a story that took me to the end of my section. Through this, I tested my own patience, I able to drive myself on, even when having lapses in imagination. This experience has taught me that I can avoid abandoning a story if I just put some extra thought in- which should improve my future projects a great deal!

Finally, my volunteering section. Out of every charity shop in my local area, only one was willing to take me on- RSPCA Radcliffe. At first, I was nervous to start my volunteering there, as it was a completely new environment, working with people I didn’t even know, adults who knew how to do their job properly. But sure enough, I settled in, and began to feel right at home. I started to enjoy going there, even if it was an hour out of my Saturday afternoon. I learnt the ways of the workplace and got to know the staff too- Patricia and Gaynor were there to show me the ropes, and I grew fond of the place very quickly. So, it’ll come as no surprise that leaving the shop after I’d completed the section left everyone quite upset, my mum included! I promised to pop in again to say hello every once in a while, and I know I’ll miss it there. After my GCSEs, I hope I can go back there, and maybe even work part time during college! Volunteering was my favourite part of DofE because it was a completely new and exciting experience that I’m so glad I got a chance to have!

Each individual section has proved extremely valuable to me in completely different ways, helping me to develop my character, my confidence, my talents and skills, and overall my experience in live, contributing to my transition into adulthood, where I hope to move on to greater things and take all of these memories and lessons along with me.

On top of the months of skills, sports and volunteering, we also undertook two expeditions, one practice and one qualifying, during which we carried all of our gear across two days and over twenty kilometres of countryside. Enduring unpredictable weather conditions, sore shoulders, damp socks and sunburn, we powered through each day, ending them with a rewarding plate of (almost) hot food and an acutely uncomfortable night in the tent. The expeditions taught me the importance of teamwork, along with endurance and navigation, and I know I’ll never forget them, the highs and the lows, for a very long time! I’ve never experienced anything like it before, testing my independence, my stamina and my organisation all at once, and I wouldn’t be opposed to doing it all over again.

Before I started this award, I never could’ve known how important it would prove to be. It’s a huge confidence boost to be able to think back to every accomplishment this award brought with it- experiencing a working environment (where I know I made lifelong companions), improving my fitness and enjoying the scenery while I did, and conjuring up a brand new story (which I will hopefully one day complete!)

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. I am immensely grateful for this chance to prove and better myself, and I will not hesitate to recommend it to any other young people like me who want a tremendously rewarding challenge to enhance every aspect of their character, and teach them what school alone can’t- to squeeze every last drop out of life.